USA National Singles Preview

Rajsich looking for her 9th straight title this weekend.

Its the week before Memorial Day Weekend, which means that its time for USA Racquetball National Singles!

r2sports link: https://www.r2sports.com/portfolio/r2-event.asp?TID=30549

This year’s version of event is the 52nd iteration of the event, and is as far as I know the longest running racquetball tournament in existence. It was first held in 1968 in Milwaukee, where two legends competed in the final (Bill Schultz defeated Hall of Famer Bill Schmidtke in the final).

Here’s a list of every Men’s Open champ since 1968: http://rball.pro/896B5B.

In 1970, the first Women’s national champion was crowned: Fran Cohen won the first Women’s national title in St. Louis.

Here’s a list of every Women’s Open champ since 1970: http://rball.pro/A75737

Record holders for Most National Titles?
 Rocky Carson holds 7 National titles, winning his first in 2000 and his most recent in 2017. Interestingly, despite still being ranked #2 on the pro tour, Rocky did not compete in the 2018 version, nor is he in this weekend’s draw.

– Rhonda Rajsich holds 11 National titles, winning her first in 2004. She’s also the defending champ, the #1 seed this weekend and has won the last eight National events.

Your defending champs are David Horn and Rajsich. I’m not entirely sure how Horn drops to the #3 seed behind Jake in particular (who he has bested round for round in the last few national qualifying events)., but would have had to play Pratt in the semis regardless so its a minor seeding nit.

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Men’s Singles:

Lets preview some of the match-ups i’ll be looking for:
In the 16s:
– #8 Luis R Avila vs #9 Robert Collins; 8/9 match-ups are always tough, and this should be no different. Lefty touring pro Collins versus the defending outdoor 3-wall champ Avila, who periodically comes indoors and has some good wins on his resume. This is a good test for both.
– #5 Adam Manilla vs #12 Woody Clouse; Woody Clouse back in action competing for the National team … for the first time since 2006. Clouse qualified for the team in 2005 and represented the US in the Pan American Games in April 2006, losing in the final to Canadian Kris Odegard 11-9. He also had several top 10 pro tour finishes during the deep mid 90s tour days. Now he’s back at age 53, playing in his home town. He faces off against fellow lefty Manilla, fresh off of a second top 20 season on tour with some good results. I think Manilla moves on but it’ll be a fun L vs L match.
– #6 Thomas Carter vs #11 Nicholas Nick Riffel; two IRT regulars meet up; they faced each other 3 times in 3 months in early 2018, with Carter taking 2 of 3. Riffel had a tough end to his 2018-19 tour, forfeiting out of Syosset with an injury. Meanwhile Carter had a nice run at the end of the season, getting a couple of solid wins and making the main draw in both Florida and NY. Advantage Carter here. 
– #7 Dylan Reid vs #10 Jeff Stark; two West Coasters who have played more than a few times meet up in the first round. I think the podcasting Reid is favored here but they know each other’s game.

Man, lots of Lefties in action. At least four, maybe more. Something in the water in Denver maybe.

Projecting the Qtrs:
– #1 Jake Bredenbeck vs Avila: Jake struggled with upsets all season … then blew it out in NY, taking out Pratt, Daniel De La Rosa and nearly beating Andree Parrilla. So which Jake shows up? 
– #4 Jose Diaz vs #5 Manilla: they’ve only played a couple times, but both matches were 3- or 5-game tiebreakers. I like Diaz here … in a tiebreaker.
– #3 Horn vs #6 Carter: I don’t think they’ve ever played in a top-level event … so a first for everyone. Horn should win this one in two closer games.
– #2 Charlie Pratt vs #7 Dylan Reid: another match-up of two upper northwestern guys, both hailing from Portland. Fly all the way to Denver … have a repeat of your tuesday night game. Pratt’s solid and advances here.

So i’m predicting Chalk to the semis … and then for some upsets to happen.

Semis:
– #4 Diaz over #1 Jake: they’re pretty even career-wise h2h, but havn’t played in a year and a half. I like Diaz here. Diaz had the better season, nearly slipping into the top 10 and jumping Jake in the rankings. 
– #2 Pratt over Horn: They played in December in Portland, a close 2-game win for Pratt, and I like the year Pratt is having so far.

Final:
– #2 Pratt over Diaz. head to head, Diaz has never lost to Pratt. But something tells me Pratt is on a mission this year.

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Women’s Singles: just 9 in this draw, but some good match-ups towards the back and one incredibly poor seeding job:

In the Quarters:
– #1 Rajsich over #8 Cassandra Cassi Lee
– #5 Kelani Lawrence over #4 Sheryl Lotts; here’s a seeding question. Lawrence made the Women’s singles final of the 2018 qualifier at Nat’l doubles, made the finals at 2018 Nationals, and made the finals at the 2019 Qualifier at Nat’l Doubles. So that’s basically the last three major National events…. how exactly is she seeded 5th in this event?? What more does she have to do to demonstrate that she’s basically the 2nd best American woman player right now?
– #3 Hollie Rae Scott over #6 Adrienne Fisher Haynes
– #2 Erika Manilla holds off retired LPRT legend Cheryl Gudinas

In the semis:
– #1 Rajsich takes out Lawrence in a rematch of the last three major US national team final, instead of in the final like it should be
– #3 Scott takes out #2 Manilla in a rematch of this year’s Intercollegiates semis.

In the final: Rajsich takes her 9th straight US title over Scott.

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Lastly, a note on attendance. There’s some separate conversations about the # of participants this weekend going on. Here’s a list of the participation numbers for the last 14 National Singles events (these are the “# of participants” from the r2sports page and should indicate unique players, not # of draw entrants):

2019: 191 Highlands Ranch/Denver
2018: 221 Pleasanton
2017: 243 Tempe
2016: 268 Highlands Ranch/Denver
2015: 377 Highlands Ranch/Denver
2014: 292 Fullerton
2013: 435 Fullerton (also IRT and LPRT pro stop)
2012: 559 Fullerton (also IRT and LPRT pro stop)
2011: 514 Fullerton (also IRT stop)
2010: 535 Houston
2009: 501 Houston
2008: 523 Houston
2007: 528 Houston
2006: 515 Houston

The event held steady in the low 500s its last five years in H ouston, then spiked during its Fullerton years thanks to simultaneous IRT and LPRT events (some of the pro draws from those years were amazing; 70+ mens pros competing). But we’ve seen a precipitous drop in attendance over the last few years, including a 100+ attendee drop from 2015 to 2016, now not even able to clear 200 players this year. 191 players isn’t even close to what National Doubles got this year (306) and that number is basically halved from the beginning of the century.

I know there’s some fundamental industry issues that are driving down these numbers. But this is the NGB’s marquee event. You can’t turn back time and make it the mid 2000s again (to say nothing of the mid 1990s), but you can strategize other aspects of the event to make it more appealing to a larger audience, and I hope to see some turn around in the coming years.

Syosset Open Mixed Pro Wrap-up

DLR continues to show why he’s the top Men’s doubles player in the world.

We got a fun treat at the Syosset open; mixed pro doubles. 20 teams entered and we got some great ball.

r2sports Mixed Pro doubles draw: https://www.r2sports.com/website/bracket.asp…

We don’t have a spot in the Proracquetballstats.com database for Mixed doubles. But we have staged these results, World Doubles 2018, and the nice mixed pro draw from San Antonio last weekend as a starting point. If anyone can think of mixed pro doubles draw from the past, i’m more than happy to dig up the r2sports links and stage them too.

here’s a quick wrap up:

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In the quarters,

– #8 Alvaro Beltran + Montse Mejia upset the #1 seeded team of Alejandro Alex Landa and Maria Jose Vargas Parada in a tiebreaker.

– #4 Paola Longoria and Rodrigo Montoya Solís topped the all-Canadian team of Frederique Lambert and Samuel Murray

– #3 Andree Parrilla and Alexandra Herrera were upset by the young #11 team of current junior world champ Eduardo Lalo Portillo and current inter collegiate champ Hollie Rae Scott.

– #2 Seasoned doubles players Daniel De La Rosa and Samantha Salas Solis cruised by #7 Jake Bredenbeck and Yazmine Sabja Ráquetbol, the current reigning World Doubles champion.

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In the semis:
– Beltran (the current men’s world doubles champion) topped the finest women’s doubles player in the world and current PARC doubles title holder Longoria with partner Montoya.

– De La Rosa (with 2018 world doubles champion with Beltran) and Salas (she the holder with Longoria of the 2019 PARC title) topped the Portillo/Scott team.

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In the final:
– DLR and Salas downed Beltran and Mejia in two straight to claim the title.

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In the three Mixed Pro events I know of, here’s the winners:
– World Doubles 2018: Daniel & Michelle De La Rosa
– San Antonio 2019: Alan Natera Chavez and Mejia
– Syosset 2019: Daniel De La Rosa and Salas.

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International Racquetball Tour LPRT Racquetball Canada USA RacquetballUSA Racquetball Federación Mexicana de Raquetbol International Racquetball Federation – IRF

LPRT Syosset Open Singles Wrap-Up

Longoria wins again.

Congrats to Paola Longoria on her win this weekend in NY.

With this win:
– this is Paola’s 90th tournament title in the database and 97th that she claims (we have yet to reconcile this difference with her media group).
– She remains undefeated on the season, improving to 33-0.
– Paola creates an insurmountable lead at the top of the season to date rankings, ensuring her 10th pro title (more on that later).
– Paola extends her current match winning streak to 37.
– She improves to 49-3 career on the LPRT over #2 Salas.

R2sports link: http://rball.pro/B39D6C

PRS Match Report: http://rball.pro/E8EB94

Here’s notable results by round:

In the 32s/qualifiers:
– #12 Brenda Laime Jalil needed four to get by Canadian Michèle Morissette, who just finished representing Canada at PARCs 2019 and played solidly.

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In the 16s:
– In a battle of two of the worlds best, far too early, #1 Paola Longoria avenged a loss in the 2019 Mexican Nationals final to top Montse Mejia 11-7 in the 5th. It was a battle though, a back and forth 5-game monster.

– #5 Rhonda Rajsich came from two games down to take out youngster Laime.

– #6 Natalia Mendez took a 3-game win over #11 Masiel Rivera Oporto 8,9,9. Closer than it seemed.

– #10 Amaya Cris got a nice win over #7 Nancy Enriquez 5,6,6.

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In the Quarters:
– #1 Paola Longoria took out last year’s 2nd ranked player and #8 seed Frederique Lambert in three straight.

– #5 Rajsich again came from 2 games down to top #4 Alexandra Herrera and remain undefeated against the lefty Mexican in her career.

– #3 Maria Jose Vargas topped her doubles partner #6 Mendez in straight sets, her 4th win over Natalia in the last few weeks.

– #2 Samantha Salas cruised past #10 Amaya to make the semis for the 8th time in 9 tries this season.

So nearly chalk into the semis: 1,2,3,5.

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In the semis:
– #1 Longoria had to come from two games down to top #5 Rajsich. After dropping the first game 4, a battle royale ensued in game two, with Rhonda topping Paola 13-11. From there though, all champion, as she cruised to win the next three games 2,3,1.

– #2 Salas beat Vargas in three straight advance to her 8th final in 9 events this year.

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In that final, Longoria improved to 49-3 on the pro tour over her doubles partner Salas … but she had to work to do so. A back and forth affair resulted in another 5 game match for Longoria before she came out on top.

Three 5-gamers in this event for Longoria; that doesn’t happen too often. But she comes out with the title.

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One more event for the LPRT; a grand slam in Kansas City in mid June. However, Paola has sewn up the year end title, having an insurmountable points lead at this point over Solis for #1. And Solis has a similarly insurmountable lead for #2. We’ll go through the points ramifications in the preview for the last event for the rest of the top 10 after the Kansas event.

But Longoria has now officially wrapped up her 10th pro title. Congrats to Paola on this great accomplishment!.

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LPRT Federación Mexicana de Raquetbol Racquetball Canada USA Racquetball

IRT Syosset Open Singles Wrap-Up

Kane wins again … and wraps up his 13th pro tour title.

Congrats to Kane Waselenchuk, who wins the Syosset Open on the weekend.

With this title:
– Kane’s 116th professional win.
– He improves to 26-2 on the season
– He improves to 76-3 over Rocky, his opponent in the final.
– Most importantly … Kane secures an insurmountable points lead and clinches his 13th pro tour title.

We’ll put up a separate post about the ramifications of this win for the year end’s rankings … this was the final Tier 1 event of the year.

r2sports link for brackets: http://rball.pro/CCDF9D

Match Report in PRS: http://rball.pro/A7214A

Here’s the matches I found notable, by round:

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In the 64s:
– #9 seed Rodrigo Montoya Solis absolutely pasted #41 Alan Natera Chavez2,2. Talk about turning the tables from the last time they played at Nationals.

– Similarly, #24 Javier Mar advanced with relative ease over #25 Eduardo Garay Rodriguez 5,10 to setup a fantastic 32 match up with each other.

– #16 Adam Manilla took out #33 Nick Montalbano with relative ease 5,3. I thought this would be closer, given Montalbano’s results on tour earlier this season.

– #13 David Horn was stretched to an 11-8 tiebreaker win, taking out Marylander #36 Mauricio MoMo Zelada.

– #11 Jose Diaz advanced over Mexican junior #38 Oscar Nieto 13,11. Nieto is playing in his age 18 season but missed last year’s Mexican Junior Nationals after advancing to the 2017 16U Mexican finals (where he lost to Fernandez, also playing here).

– #22 Andres Acuña made fast work of Georgia IRT frequenter #27 Maurice Miller 3,7.

– Teenager #26 Sebastian Fernandez downed #23 Mauro Daniel Rojas with relative ease 10,6. Like with several of these match-ups, I thought this would be closer.

– #42 Andres Gomez upset his fellow Colombian #10 Mario Mercado 11-9, making for another one-and-done for Mercado and likely killing his chances of finishing in the top 10 this season.

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In the 32s.

– Solid win by youngster #17 Lalo Portillo to beat #16 Adam Manilla to advance to the main draw.

– In the match of the round, #9 Montoya was ousted by his good friend and frequent doubles partner #24 Mar 12,7. Both games were neck and neck up to a point, and then featured Mar pulling away. Such a shame to see two top 10 players in the world meet in the 32s. But Mar survives the gauntlet of this little section of the draw to move on.

– #12 Jake Bredenbeck came from a game down to dominate #21 Charlie Pratt and advance (8),6,1. I thought Pratt had a deep run in him, given his PARC run last month, but Jake played really well, frustrating Pratt and dominated the tie-breaker.

– #19 Thomas Carter got a statement win over #14 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez 1,10.

– Similarly, #22 Acuna dominated #11 seed Jose Diaz 4,12 to move on.

– #26 Fernandez dominated Gomez 8,0 to advance into the main draw.
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In the 16s.

– #1 Kane Waselenchuk seems to show little ill effects from last weekend, dominating the youngster Portillo in a 4,4 win to open his tournament.

– #24 Mar continued plowing through ranked players, topping #8 Sebastian Franco 7,13 to setup a rematch with Kane of a round of 16 last October at the US Open.

– #12 Bredenbeck makes his first IRT quarter final since Nov 2017 with a solid win over #5 Daniel De La Rosa.

– There he’ll face long-time WRT rival Andree Parrilla , who advanced for the 2nd week in a row with a 2-game win over fellow WRT veteran David Horn.

– #3 Alex Landa dispatched surprise main draw participant #19 Carter 5,6. Unless Parrilla makes the final, Landa has sewn up #3 with this win.

– #6 Alvaro Beltran was taken to a tie-breaker by the surprising Costa Rican Acuna before advancing.

– #7 Samuel Murray dropped a game to #26 Fernandez before coming back to advance in a tiebreaker.

– #2 Rocky Carson dispatched #15 Jansen Allen in two straight 4,10.

So, 6 of your top 8 seeds advance; only #3 and #8 are upset at this juncture.

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In the Quarters…
– #1 Waselenchuk left no doubt that he’s recovered from whatever ailed him in Florida, pounding one of the best players in the world in #24 Mar 6,3.

– #4 Parilla squandered match point in game two, but held on in the tiebreaker to advance over #12 Jake, ending Bredenbeck’s best run in a year and a half on tour.

– #3 Landa pulverized Beltran 4,4 in a rematch of last weekend’s final, throwing down the gauntlet on this event.

– #2 Carson cruised past Canadian #7 Murray 9,5.

So, despite the depth of this 49-man draw and the presence of a slew of top world players who don’t regularly play the tour … its chalk seeds into the semis. Cream rises.

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In the Semis:
– #4 Parilla came out swinging, taking Game 1 over Waselenchuk and putting into doubt not only the year end title race but also the state of Kane’s game right now given his loss last weekend. Kane rebounded though taking game 2 and donutting Parrilla in the tie-breaker to advance to thefinals.

– #2 Carson avenged a loss to #3 Landa last weekend by taking a solid 12,13 win to advance to the final.

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In the Final, Kane showed no mercy and showed no ill effects of any past physical ailments by dominating the tour’s #2 player 3,4 for the title.

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Next up; per the IRT schedule, there’s a few non-tier 1s between now and the end of June, including two Tier 2s that could theoretically juggle the year end rankings a bit. We’ll definitely cover them as they stand to have good draws, especially the “Black Gold” event in Mexico in mid-June.

Also notable; the tour plans on announcing a preliminary copy of the 2019-20 schedule next month and they’ve teased it a bit; it should include the return of several events that dropped off in the last year, plus the return of some of the great events that happened this year.

International Racquetball Tour Racquetball Canada USA RacquetballFederación Mexicana de Raquetbol Federación Boliviana De Raquetbol – Febora Fecoracquet Fecoracquet International Racquetball Federation – IRFInternational Racquetball Federation

LPRT Syosset Open Singles Preview

In addition to the huge International Racquetball Tour draw in NY this weekend, there’s also a big LPRT draw AND a solid mixed doubles events combining both pro tours for just the 3rd time in the last few seasons (that i can see).

r2sports home page: https://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=30716

Lets preview the ladies singles draw. 21 ladies present, including 14 of the top 15 ranked players (only missing the newly-retired Gaby Martinez, who still sits in the top 10 from results earlier this season) are here and the draw is solid.

Qualifying/round of 32 matches to watch:
– #16 Montse Mejia vs #17 Hollie Rae Scott; an interesting match between the reigning 18U junior world champ and the reigning USA RacquetballIntercollegiates champ. Mejia is favored here but Scott has wins over top 10 players in the past and won’t go easily.
– #20 Maricruz Ortiz, a finalist in the World 16U juniors in 2018 and who just represented Costa Rica at the 2019 PARCs, faces off against #13 LPRT touring regular Cassie Lee.
– In the 15/18 match, 18yr old Ana Laura Flores takes on Ceci Orozco Pratt, an infrequent but long-time LPRT player.

round of 16 matches to look for:
– #1 Paola Longoria vs Mejia: wow, what an opener. Paola Longoria beat Mejia at the 2018 UnitedHealthcare US OPEN Racquetball Championships, but then Mejia topped her in the final of the 2019 Federación Mexicana de Raquetbol Nationals to claim the #1 seed at the 2019 International Racquetball Federation – IRF PARC championships. This is a semis or finals quality match right out of the gate. While Longoria remains the undisputed #1 player in the world, Mejia has the talent to be there some day. But on the pro tour, in the best of 5 format, Longoria’s superior fitness will win out and she’ll win on the day.

– #8 Frederique Lambert vs #9 Adriana Riveros; newly minted MD Lambert returns to the pro tour fold having shedded a ton of points as she finished off medical school. Lest anyone forget, Lambert was the #2 player on tour in both of the last two seasons … so she’s a threat to win whenever she plays. But how rusty is she? I think she advances here.

– #3 Maria Jose Vargas Parada vs #14 Yazmine Sabja Aliss; they’ve only played twice, both in the back end of IRF tourneys in 2018. Vargas held serve to top Yazmine Sabja Ráquetbol to win the 2018 South American Games, then beat her again in the quarters of 2018 Worlds. Both native Bolivians, they meet in NY where Vargas has been playing really solid lately and advances.

– #6 Natalia Mendez vs #11 Masiel Rivera Oporto; Rivera has been playing well this season, making a quarter in her home country Bolivian Open. Natalia Mendez Erlwein has been pretty consistently advancing to pro tournament quarters and had a great run at the PARCs, making the semis.

Projected Quarters; this is almost identical to last weekend’s Quarters, with only Lambert replacing Amaya.

– #1 Longoria over #8 Lambert: well, if Longoria wants this event, she’ll be earning it, facing last year’s 2nd best player here in the quarters. That being said, Longoria is 26-1 career on the LPRT over Lambert, so she likely moves on here.
– #5 Rhonda Rajsich over #4 Alexandra Herrera ; despite their seeds, Rajsich has never lost to Herrera (9-0 lifetime) and held on for a 5-game marathon win last weekend. I think she makes it 10-0 here.
– #3 Vargas over #6 Mendez: Argentina’s #1 and #2, long-time doubles partners, and now facing each other for the fourth time in the last six weeks. Vargas should triumph again.
– #2 Samantha Salas Solis over #7 Nancy Enriquez; they met in the quarters last week, a 3-game win for Solis who improved to 7-1 career on LPRT over Enriquez and should advance here again.

Semis and Finals: I’m predicting the exact same results as San Antonio; Longoria over Rajsich, Salas over Vargas, and for the 7th time this season a final featuring Longoria and Salas.

IRT Syosset Tier 1 Preview

IRT back in action.

Welcome to the final Tier 1 event on the International Racquetball Tour slate for the 2018-19 season, a return to Long Island for the 2019 Syosset Open. Long Island held a long-running IRT stop branded the “New York City” Pro-am, which ran annually from 2003 until 2016, so its great to see the pro tour return to one of its most important clubs.

R2sports home page: https://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=30716

Dean DeAngelo Baer posted the draws in the morning of 5/1/19 onto the IRT’s facebook page; make sure to follow it to get all the latest updates.

There’s a HUGE draw this weekend: 49 players in the IRT draw, which is the largest non-US Open draw we’ve seen on tour since Sept 2014 (see this link for the largest known draw sizes in pro tour history: http://rball.pro/797BF4). Because of the huge number of players, they’re they’re playing a round of 128. to get thing started early thursday.

This may be the most talented non-US Open draw i’ve seen since the days of Pro Nationals in Vegas. 28 of the top 30 IRT players are here (only missing two Bolivians Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo and Diego Garcia Quispe of the top 30), and 36 of the top 40 IRT ranked players are here. Amazing.

There’s also IRT tour debuts all throughout the qualifying draw, which we’ll highlight in the previews below.

Lets highlight some of the fantastic qualfiying matches to look forward to:

In the round of 128:
– Frequent tour player Nick Riffel takes on Canadian Junior Sean Sauve, fresh of last week’s Racquetball Canada 18U title. Sauve is in his age 17 season and makes his IRT debut.
– New Yorker and reigning Vegas 3-wall champion Nick Montalbano himself gets a Canadian traveler in his opener, going up against Michael Leduc.
– Canadian Pedro Castro plays in his first IRT tourney in more than 6 years and matches up against touring regular Michael Art ER Burn.
– New Jersey top amateur David Austin gets a shot at Colombian international Andres Gomez, fresh off of representing his country at the PARC championships.

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In the round of 64:
– #9 Rodrigo Montoya Solís versus Alan Natera. Man, what a match we have here. Montoya is the highest seed forced to qualify and he runs right into a player who beat him handily at Federación Mexicana de RaquetbolNationals earlier this year. Alan Natera Chavez appears in his first ever IRT Tier 1 event; he won last week’s solid Tier 4 draw in San Antonio and has made the semis of Mexican Nationals two years running. Meanwhile, Montoya has gotten bounced in the round of 16 the last two IRT events, both against opponents he probably should have beaten. This is a coin flip; Natera is hot right now; is that going to be enough to cause the massive upset?

– #24 Javier Mar vs #25 Eduardo Garay Rodriguez; these “consecutive seed” match-ups never seem to disappoint, do they? Mar was your 2017 Mexican National champ and the last time we saw him he was giving Kane fits, losing in the 16s at the US Open 12,10. Garay has multiple wins over top 10 IRT players, including a win over Mercado in Florida last weekend. Mar is favored here in my book but this is a tough starter match.

– #16 Adam Manilla vs #33 Montalbano; A solid match for the 64s between a good infrequent tour player in Montalbano, playing on home turf, versus an up and coming tour regular who has some solid wins on tour this season.

– #22 Andres Andres Acuña vs #27 Maurice Miller; Miller plays his 5th pro event of the season, with some solid performances against regular tour players but no break through wins yet. Acuna had an amazing run to the semis of PARC last month, but then got wiped out by Landa the week after upsetting him in Colombia. These players both play solid, mistake-free ball and this could be a tight match.

– #23 Mauro Daniel Rojas vs #26 Sebastian Fernandez; The 2017 World Junior 18U champ (Rojas) versus the 2017 World Junior 16U champ (Fernandez) (see http://rball.pro/88ADAE for the complete IRF junior world champion matrix). Two of the best young players in the world meet … for the first time, amazingly. Neither has appeared on tour since January, but both had solid wins earlier in the season. I like Fernandez here, on the better track record of top wins.

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Projecting the round of 32

– #9 Montoya vs #24 Mar. So, on the off chance that both Montoya and Mar advance unscathed from very tough round of 64 matches … they get to play each other in a battle royale. This is the 2017 Mexican national champ versus the 2018 champ. These are regular tournament finalists, and who met twice in WRT finals in 2017 (splitting them). This would be another tough one to predict, as Mar can beat practically anyone in the world if he’s “on.” Meanwhile, we know what Montoya, the 2018 International Racquetball Federation – IRF World Champion can do. What a match. Oh, and instead if it was Natera vs Mar (Natera upset Mar as the 32 seed in the 2018 Mexican Nationals), or Montoya vs Garay (last time they faced it was an 11-9 tiebreaker win from the 2018 Longhorn Open), or even Natera vs Garay (who I don’t have a record of playing each other in a sanctioned event), it’ll still be a great match.

– #16 Manilla vs #17 Eduardo Lalo Portillo: 16/17s are always good, and this would be no different, whether it was Manilla or Montalbano. Portillo (the reigning 18U world champ) has really played well this season, with a couple of top-10 wins. I’d favor him here over either possible opponent.

– #12 Jake Bredenbeck vs #21 Charlie Pratt; A tough match-up for Jake, running into a criminally under-seeded Pratt, who has more than shown he can beat practically anyone not named Kane. Pratt is fresh off a very good run to the PARC finals, dispatching along the way Mercado, Moscoso and Acuna before running out of gas against Carlos Keller Vargas in the final. These two have played once before; a 2015 US Open Jake victory, but I sense Pratt’s going to neutralize Jake’s power here and move on. Question is, how deep will Pratt run in this event?

– #11 Jose Diaz vs #22 Acuna: I like this as an interesting contrast of styles. Acuna can frustrate shooters, but Diaz is lightening fast on the court and is a shooter. This could go fast Diaz’s way, or could be a 2 hour grind.

– #10 Mario Mercado vs #26 Fernandez. Mercado has been showing time and again this season the perils of dropping out of the top 8, and has suffered four one-and-dones in events this season. Here he’ll face a very tough young player who has the talent to beat him. Expect a dogfight here.

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Projected 16s:
– #1 Kane Waselenchuk over #17 Portillo: they played at the 2017 US Open, and Portillo lost by the respectable scores of 6,9,9. I don’t think these two are *that* close though, but this will be the first test for Kane since his shock loss last weekend. What will we get out of Kane this weekend?

– #9 Montoya over #8 Sebastian Franco; If Montoya can survive the qualifying guantlet, he faces a fresh Franco here. By talent this is Montoya (or Mar) over Franco … but two potentially grueling matches thursday night may drain whoever advances to face Franco friday morning. we’ll see.

– #21 Pratt over #5 Daniel De La Rosa; my first big upset prediction. DLR hasn’t looked himself lately, taking three early losses this season, often by lopsided scores. Meanwhile, when Pratt shows up, he shows up to play, and has shown time and again the tactical mindset to develop a gameplan against any one in the world.

– #4 Andree Parrilla vs #13 David Horn; they met last weekend in Florida in the quarters, a dominant 2,6 win for Parrilla, who seems to be a safe bet to have guaranteed himself a top 4 spot for the season ending standings.

– #3 Alejandro Alex Landa vs #14 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez; Franco has to beat a couple of tour regulars to get here, but once he does Landa likely ends his run easily.

– #6 Alvaro Beltran over #11 Diaz: they’ve split in two match-ups this season; Diaz got him at the UnitedHealthcare US OPEN Racquetball Championshipsbut then Beltran got him in Portland. I like Beltran’s trending lately; in his last 5 tourneys he’s made the Finals of Mexico Nats, Quarters in Chicago, Semis of Bolivia grand slam, Semis of PARC, and the finals of last weekend’s Florida stop, beating Kane along the way. Beltran’s on fire!

– #7 Samuel Murray vs #26 Fernandez: another interesting match-up. After making the final of the season opener in Laurel, Murray has not advanced past the quarters since, and has taken two one-and-done losses to players right in the same talent range as Fernandez. Murray’s in a dog-fight to retain his top 8 protected seeding and needs a result here, but may struggle if Fernandez plays like he can.

– #2 Rocky Carson vs #15 Jansen Allen; Allen was seeded as high as #3 in an event early last season, now he’s seeded 15th, having run into solid players over and again in the early rounds once he lost protected seeding. I think he fights his way through qualifying though here, only to lose to Rocky at this stage.

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Possible Quarters

– #1 Kane vs #9 Montoya; would *love* to see this happen, a lot has to go right for Montoya to make it this far. But if Kane’s not 100% from last weekend, he’ll have problems here.

– #21 Pratt vs #4 Parrilla: I like Pratt’s chances here too. Parrilla is a chameleon, adapting his game style to who he plays. But Pratt’s game style is to find your weakness and exploit it. I don’t believe they’ve ever played. Could be interesting.

– #3 Landa over #6 Beltran: a rematch of last week’s final, a close-but-comfortable Landa win over his long time Mexican rival.

– #2 Carson over #7 Murray: Rocky is 8-0 career h2h over Murray, including a win at the quarters in Chicago. He makes it 9-0 as he tries to overtake Kane for the year end points lead.

Possible Semis:
– Kane over Pratt; Kane’s 9-0 career over Pratt, and has never dropped a game. If he’s good, 10-0 here.
– Landa over Rocky: Landa is just 3-7 lifetime vs Rocky, but beat him handily last week 5,7 at this stage and seems like he’s on a roll.

Final: Kane over Landa.

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We’ll see how close my predictions come … if Kane’s still ailing from last weekend, we could really see some surprises coming out of the top of this draw. Pratt to the finals? Montoya finally making a run to an IRT final? What about Parrilla? Can’t wait.

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Battle of the Alamo IRT Tier 4 and Mixed Pro Doubles wrap-up

Natera the double winner on the weekend in San Antonio.

It was quite a busy weekend for pro racquetball. A 35-man IRT tier 1 draw in Florida was actually missing a slew of quality players, who opted mostly to stay closer to home and compete in the IRT tier 4 draw held in conjunction with the LPRT Battle at the Alamo event in San Antonio, TX.

Because of the quality of the event, and the solid mixed pro doubles event, I thought i’d do a quick review of the draws here.

A note: we do not load lower IRT tier events into the database, but as a fan of the game here’s a draw review.

r2 sports IRT draw: https://www.r2sports.com/tourney/drawsOut/view-bracket.asp…

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A 15-man pro draw; here were the notable results round by round.

In the 16s:
– Erik Garcia won a rematch of the USAR intercollegiate finals earlier this month, topping Texan Alejandro Almada in a tiebreaker. 
Alejandro Alex Cardona whitewashed the youngster Sebastian Longoria 0,0. Sebastian Longoria is playing in his age 17 season, while Cardona is one of the top 15-20 players in the world, so this is hopefully a good learning experience for Sebastian.

In the Quarters:
– #1 seed Gerardo Franco Gonzalez beat #9 seed A.J. Fernandez 4,5.
– #5 Seed Garcia got a very solid win over #4 Ernesto Ochoa in a tiebreaker. I have Ochoa in my top 30, and Garcia just took a big step up based on this win and his performance against Rocky Carson at qualifiers in Feb.
– Perpetually under-seeded Alan Natera Chavez took out #3 Javier Estrada7,7. Natera has wins over Javier Mar and Rodrigo Montoya in the past year and has made the semis of Mexican Nationals two years running … but has never appeared in a Tier 1 IRT event and thus has no points. 
– #7 seed Cardona topped #2 seed, IRT regular Nick Riffel11 and 12. A tough first match-up for Riffel in this event, coming up against the two-time WRT tour winner.

In the semis:
– #1 Franco topped Garcia 3,7, ending the collegiate champ’s run.
– #6 Natera squeaked by Cardona 11-10 in the breaker, probably a good indicator of where both players are right now. I think its probably fair to say the bottom half of this draw was more challenging than the top.

In the final, Natera defended his San Antonio title by wiping out Gerardo Franco 10 and 5. A solid weekend of victories over world top 30 players for Natera, who continues to impress.

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Mixed Pro Doubles.

Interestingly, the LPRT didn’t play ladies pros and instead opted for Mixed Pro doubles. So there was a solid draw of 14 Mixed pro teams that included most of the top LPRT pros playing with (primarily) the Mexican traveling pro players.

In the final, Paola Longoria teamed with Gerardo Franco to face Montse Mejia, who was playing Natera. Mejia and Natera came out on top, making Natera the double winner on the weekend.

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International Racquetball Tour LPRT USA Racquetball Federación Mexicana de Raquetbol

LPRT Battle at the Alamo Wrap-up

Longoria wins again.

r2 sports link: https://www.r2sports.com/tourney/home.asp?TID=30301

Congrats to your Ladies Pro Singles: Paola Longoria takes the crown on the weekend.

PRS singles match report: http://rball.pro/2F7086

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Here’s a wrap of the notable matches by round to me:

In the 32s:
– Laura Brandt took a game off of #16 seed Guatemalan #1 Maria Renee Rodríguez before losing in four. Notable because Brandt is 56 years old, still competing with players nearly 1/3rd her age. Bravo.

In the 16s:
– the #8/#9 match gave us a classic yet again, with doubles partners and Colombian team-mates Amaya Cris and Adriana Riveros going to a 5th game tie-breaker before Amaya pulled it out.
– #5 Rhonda Rajsich was stretched to the limit, getting an 11-9 fifth game tiebreaker win over Colombia youngster Brenda Laime Jalil.
– #3 seed Maria Jose Vargas Parada held on for a 5th game win over Montse Mejia in a semis-quality match-up. Vargas won the first two games, Mejia the next two, and the tie-breaker was 11-8.

In the Qtrs:
– #5 Rajsich continued her career dominance over #4 Alexandra Herrera, improving to 9-0 lifetime with a 5-game win. 
– #3 Vargas beat her country-mate and doubles partner Natalia Mendez for the third time in the last month (after having *never* faced each other).

In the semis:
– #1 Paola Longoria took out long-time rival Rajsich in three. Rhonda owns 15 of the 30 career pro losses on Longoria’s resume, but could not beat her on this day.
– #2 Samantha Salas Solis held serve against Vargas, advancing in three games to face off against Longoria.

In the final, Longoria improved to 48-3 against her doubles partner Salas on the pro tour, winning in three for the title. There have been 8 LPRT events this season; Longoria and Salas have met in the final of six of them.

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With the win, Longoria extends these personal streaks:
– She’s now won 33 straight matches, the 5th best such streak known.
– She’s still undefeated on the season, now 29-0.
– She’s only dropped 4 games this season.
– She’s now got 89 wins in the Pro Racquetball Stats database (which, we know, does not match what her media team claims; we’re still working to resolve that issue).

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Points implications for the rest of the season:

There’s two more events on the LPRT schedule; this coming w/e in Syosset then a Grand Slam in Overland Park, KS to finish off t he season

https://www.lprtour.com/schedule

Longoria holds a 450 point lead over Salas for 2nd, who then has an even larger lead over Herrera and the rest of the tour. In order for Salas to overtake Longoria, Paola would probably have to miss both the remaining events and Salas would have to win the Grand Slam and make at least the final of the Syosset event to take the title. There’s no way any other player has enough time to catch up.

So, while its mathematically possible for Longoria to lose the title, its likely that she’s basically sewn it up for this season.

IRT Florida Pro Am Wrap-up

Landa gets his 3rd career singles IRT title.

International Racquetball Tour

r2sports link: https://www.r2sports.com/portfolio/r2-event.asp?TID=30402

PRS Match Report: http://rball.pro/6A2E20

Congrats to Alejandro Landa, who wins his 3rd career title on the weekend.

Here’s a review of the event, citing notable matches (to me) by round:

In the 64s:
– Maurice Miller advanced by the skin of his teeth over Kyle Ulliman 11-10. 
– Set Cubillos Ruiz got a solid win over “the ref’ Scott McClellan to advance.

In the 32s:
– Thomas Carter got his first career win over Felipe Camacho with a pretty solid 6,13 win. He advances into the main draw for just the 2nd time this season.
– Eduardo Garay Rodriguez upset 9th seeded Mario Mercado 11-9 in the breaker. A solid win for Garay, which earns him a rematch with Beltran.
– #13 Jake Bredenbeck saved game point against Miller in game 1, then cruised to a two game win, avoiding this pitfall and advancing to his 7th main draw in 8 IRT events this season.
– Andres Acuña won a hard-fought tiebreaker win over #14 Jansen Allen. Allen’s tough season continues; he’s only qualified for the main draw now in 4 of the 8 events, after cashing in all 11 events last season. 
– Lalo Portillo got a solid win over tour vet Robert Collins to continue his impressive season.

In the 16s:
– David Horn got a solid win over #5 Samuel Murray 11,12. He avenges a bad loss a month ago to Murray and moves on to his second QF of the season.
– Alvaro Beltran made quicker work of Eduardo Garay than I thought he would, winning 7,9.
– #3 Alejandro Alex Landa absolutely destroyed Acuna 3,2. Where was this dominance at the Pan Am Games? 
– #7 Daniel De La Rosa got an easier-than-expected win over Rodrigo Montoya Solís 12,3, the latest in a back-and-forth rivalry with Montoya.
#6 Sebastian Franco got a solid win over Jose Diaz to advance.

Nearly 100% chalk into the quarters, with only Horn’s upset of #5 Murray a blemish on the resumes of the top 8 seeds.

In the Quarters:
– In a shocking result, #8 Beltran topped #1 seed Kane Waselenchuk in an 11-8 tiebreaker. I’ll do a separate post on this result, which streaks it ends for Kane, and what it means for the title race later on.
– #4 Andree Parrilla dominated his former WRT rival #12 Horn 2,6.
– #3 Landa took a close one over Franco
– #2 Rocky Carson wiped out #7 De La Rosa 7,3.

Semis:
– Beltran came back from looking like he’d get wiped off the court to take Parrilla in an 11-10 thriller.
– Landa played one of the more complete games of his career, beating Carson 5,7 to advance to the final.

In that final, a rematch of the Mexican National championship, Landa fended off the veteran Beltran to take home his 3rd career title.

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Next up; the Syosset Open, the last Tier 1 of the season!

2019 LPRT Battle at the Alamo Preview

Draws: https://www.r2sports.com/portfolio/r2-event.asp?TID=30301

Post Publishing Editor’s note: the draw was remade completely just prior to the begining of play when Frederique Lambert withdrew. So most of the predicted matchups below are now moot. Apologies; I don’t have time to re-write it and re-analyze it.

Like the IRT, the LPRT is back in action this weekend in San Antonio, the 8th year running for an LPRT component at the Battle at the Alamo event.

22 pros entered here, coming on the heels of a huge PARC event in Colombia, which may have dampened attendance a bit. Nonetheless, the top 10 active pros are here, and a good chunk of the ladies ranked 11-20 are here as well, and it looks like a solid draw.

here’s some of the singles matches to watch for:

Round of 32:
– The #16/17 seed match is a good one: Maria Renee Rodríguez taking on Mexican vet Susana Susy Acosta. Rodriguez got a solid win at PARCs representing Guatemala over 6th ranked Mendez but lost in the knockouts early. 
– #11 Adrienne Fisher Haynes takes on Daniela Rico, the current reigning World 14U junior champion. Haynes was the most accomplished female junior in the sports history, winning 10 World Junior titles. Rico won’t get there, but has four more years to extend her record.

Round of 16:
– #8 Frederique Lambert vs #9 Adriana Riveros; Lambert, Canada’s undisputed #1 female, couldn’t commit the time to play in PARC this year, and her training has driven down her ranking to its current #8 spot. She was the #2 ranked player at the end of the last two seasons running, lest anyone forget. Fred should advance here and give Paola an early QF test.
– #4 Alexandra Herrera versus #13 Brenda Laime Jalil; nothing like lefty versus lefty to make both players uncomfortable. Laime has challenged a bit lately on tour, perhaps a benefit of playing at CSU-Pueblo with fellow touring pros Munoz and Riveros. 
– #7 Nancy Enriquez vs #10 Amaya Cris; they’ve met once; in the 16s of this event last year, an Enriquez 3-game win. Amaya is coming back from a long week at PARC, and may struggle to keep up with the tough Enriquez here.
– #2 Samantha Salas Solis vs #15 Montse Mejia; wow, what a brutal match-up for a round of 16. I have these two players 2nd and 3rd in my world power rankings right now, and they meet here in the 16s. Mejia is coming off an upset loss early in the PARC knockouts to Mendez, while Salas paired with Longoria to dominate the doubles and win her 16th career IRF doubles title. I suspect that the longer pro format favors Salas here, even though in their last meeting Mejia shocked Salas (and then Longoria) to win the 2019 Mexican national title. Salas comes back to win a 5 game battle.

Projected quarters:
– #1 Paola Longoria vs #8 Lambert; an early battle between the top two players over the past 3 seasons. Lambert’s focus hasn’t been on touring, while Paola Longoria just cruised to her 8th PARC title. Longoria runs away with this one.
– #4 Herrera vs #5 Rhonda Rajsich; despite fighting through a lingering knee issue that hampered her in both Bolivia and at PARC, Rajsich still made the quarters of both events with tough wins throughout. She’s also never lost to Herrera, 8-0 lifetime on tour. What happens here? Its been a year and a half since they met, and Herrera has consistently made the semis this season (5 of 7 events; semis or better). I think Herrera may break through here.
– #3 Maria Jose Vargas vs #6 Natalia Mendez Erlwein; these Argentinian countrymates had never met until this year; now they’re slated to play for the third time in 2 months. Their semi finals meeting at PARC was a tough one, with line judges called in early, eventually won by Vargas in the tiebreaker. I sense Vargas continues to have the upper hand over her doubles partner.
– #2 Salas vs #7 Enriquez; Enriquez does have some career wins over Salas … but they were a while ago. Miami 2011, then before than in juniors in 2005. Salas has otherwise held serve, though it took a huge comeback in South Carolina in January for her do to so, winning a5th game tiebreaker. I like Salas here thought.

projected Semis:
– Longoria over Herrera: Longoria is 12-0 lifetime over Herrera and in those 12 wins has only dropped a couple of games. Seems likely to be 13-0.
– Vargas over Salas: a rematch of the Bolivian Open final, won 11-9 in the 5th by Vargas. Salas leads h2h on the LPRT 5-2, but including international competitions its nearly dead even now. I like Vargas’ trend right now, I think she’s the hot hand, and will head to the final.

Projected final: 
– Longoria over Vargas, a rematch of last week’s PARC final and what would be their 34th meeting. Longoria is 32-1 through the first 33 meetings, so odds of a Vargas win seem slim.

That’s it: my predictions look pretty chalky, with only one upset by seed from the quarters on. Hopefully i’m wrong and we have some darkhorse upsets on the weekend.

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A quick note: this event also is an IRT lower tier event …and because of its proximity to Mexico, a ton of solid IRT regulars opted to play here instead of in Florida. There’s 12-13 guys in Texas this weekend who normally would be at the main event, including a couple of top 30 guys in Gerardo Franco Gonzalez and Nick Riffel (who are the top two seeds). It looks to be a very solid draw and we’ll review it separately later on.